What is it with Americans and sex? We appear to crave it, are fascinated by it and simultaneously fear it with every fiber of our being. We use it in advertising to sell everything from automobiles to zucchini, yet often prohibit our children from learning about it, our teachers from teaching it, and ourselves from discussing it publicly in any truly meaningful way. Movies with extremely graphic violence and gore receive an R rating; depictions of erotic play between mature consenting adults often receive an X. Yet the fascination remains. What issue of Cosmopolitan doesn't promise new ways to attract and keep your lover, to have bigger and better orgasms, to cook, clean, and dress for sexual success? What neighborhood bar isn't rife with the boys alternately telling ribald jokes and creating a swaggering sexual mythos about themselves?
Our fascination and fear stem from the fact that the energy of eroticism is the most powerful primal force within ourselves. The Ancients of all cultures revered and worshipped this force particularly in the form of the Goddess. Lilith, Astarte, Parvati, Isis, Hecate, Venus, Kerridwin, Freya, Ixchel, Tara, the Virgin Mary - all are Goddesses revered in antiquity for bringing forth life, divinity, and wisdom through the mystical power of sexuality. Historically, Tantra arose from the worship of these Goddesses and woman's innate link with the energies of creation. As Tantra evolved in India, Tibet, Egypt, and China, adepts of yoga and meditation tapped into increasingly powerful and efficient techniques for safely accessing the cosmic forces inherent in sexual energy. What had begun as awe and mystery became a science. Schools arose to instruct initiates in precise methods to awaken this primal life-force and master its use for healing, ecstasy, and enlightenment. Later, as war and other forms of technological manipulation increasingly arose in civilization, patriarchal societies developed and Man's awe of Woman's fertility and cosmic sexual capacity turned to fear. Out of the desire to dominate rose the need to subjugate and control that which they could not understand: Woman's overwhelming power to create the Universe as Goddess, her tremendous and mysterious connection to "the starry dynamo in the machinery of night."
As this Age of Darkness descended on the world, persecution of those who possessed the secret of the erotic/divine connection soon followed, and continues to this day. From the 13th century Moslem invasion of Tantric temples that resulted in the wholesale slaughter of Tantrikas and destruction of manuscripts, to the burning of the books of Wilhelm Reich in 1957 New York, our left-brained patriarchal paranoia has until recently succeeded in suppressing this knowledge. The resultant war between our higher selves and society's prejudices in this regard has led to our psyches being badly fragmented and the entire planet's survival threatened.
Fortunately, the ancient prophecy that the full knowledge of the Tantric path would once again surface in the time of our most urgent planet-wide need seems to be unfolding. Interest in Tantra is growing exponentially and many forms of this age-old wisdom are being taught all over the world as the Yogic masters agree that Western culture is now mature enough to understand and integrate this esoteric practice. As a spiritual path for attaining union with God, Tantra accepts the body, senses, sexuality, and emotions to help us evolve spiritually. Tantra does not force us to make a choice between being spiritual or sexual and encourages us to fully enjoy the world we live in as a way to discover our higher nature. As we begin to realize our own divinity, we can see the Divine in our beloved, in all people, in all of life.
Paramahansa Yogananda, in "Autobiography of a Yogi", relates accounts of the Mahavatar Babaji and his disciples. Recently revealed in its entirety, Babaji's Tantric Kriya Yoga is probably one of the most advanced and powerful spiritual discipline available on the planet. The central practice of this rich tradition is the Cosmic Cobra Breath. As it prepares the body for the conscious movement of Kundalini (Life-force), this ancient breath technique was long held secret because of its great power. Ipsalu Tantra is the most accessible form of Tantric Kriya Yoga that is taught in this country. In this lineage, the focus is on Self-Realization, attention to emotional clearing, in addition to techniques for safely activating Kundalini. Methods are taught to amplify and transmute sexual energy, to learn true intimacy, to balance our male and female polarities, rejuvenate the body, clear old patterns, and live in the present moment while being profound, yet playful.
Our sexual relationships can become fuller vehicles for intimacy, self-knowledge, and spiritual evolution. As you make love, look deeply into the eyes of your beloved. Feel the electric heat of your union rippling upward with your breath, transforming into Divine Ecstasy as you gaze upon the face of God. Practicing sacred sexuality primes the mind and body to accept and amplify the creative life-force and ecstasy that is slumbering within us.
Stanislav Grof, in "Beyond the Brain", speaks of this Tantric ecstasy as being "characterized by extreme peace, tranquillity, serenity, and radiant joy. The individual involved...experiences a blissful, tension-free state, a loss of ego boundaries and an absolute sense of oneness with nature, with the cosmic order, and with God. A deep intuitive understanding of existence and a flood of various specific insights of cosmic relevance are characteristic for this condition." In Tantra, we know that this ecstasy derives from Love, and Love is sex energy transformed. To know the elemental truth of love, we must first accept the divinity of sex and learn to worship through the senses. Total acceptance and surrender to natural energies leads to the most sublime experience.
"The Universe does not have laws.
It has habits.
And habits can be broken."
- Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
Dance. Sing. Breathe. Laugh. Experience pleasure. Above all else, Love. These are the keys to unlock the gates to the Kingdom of God. Our dysfunctional habits have prevented us from experiencing life and our own ecstasy in its manifold fullness, deadening us so we live a pale shadow of the Life that has been offered to us. Eventually, a time will come when we grow weary of the gray, robotic lives we lead. That time is the Eternal "Now," the keys are in our hands and hearts.
Keith Hall teaches Tai Chi, Tantra and Tantric Qi Gong in Rockville, MD.